Oh no he won’t, oh yes he Will? Pure theatre – from farce, via tragedy to a pantomime ending.
When I walked out of the BPA yesterday afternoon, I did so in the certain knowledge that I had just witnessed one of those rare Cov sporting moments, one that will live long in the memory not because of the quality of the rugby involved, but because it offered supporters a glimpse of what might yet be…
..the triumph of hope over adversity.
With just 4 minutes remaining and 9 points down, it looked for all the world as if Coventry had contrived to lose a game that had been theirs for the taking. But credit to Old Albanians who kept doing what we couldn’t, namely retaining the ball and playing to their strengths and our weaknesses. Their discipline proved far better than ours and as the penalty count grew, so did Ben Palmer’s personal tally of points, 22 in total, as he kicked OA’s back into the game.
With the clock ticking down and Coventry looking for all the world as if they were down and out of it, from nowhere they produced 5 or six minutes of rugby that turned the game on its head, leaving the Coventry supporters overcome with relief and the OA’s travelling fans shocked and stunned.
For the third home game this season Coventry have come from behind in injury time and through sheer bloody-mindedness and commitment to the cause, won a game that looked as if it had run away from them. Say what you like about the quality of Coventry’s rugby, about their woeful defence, their poor handling or their inability to take the right option at crucial moments..
…their self-belief yesterday was immense.
It would be easy to be critical, very critical, of Coventry’s performance.
I was just one kick away from writing a very different post this morning.
But actually, in the final reckoning the manner of that performance is very much secondary to the result itself. It’s too easy to forget that actually, despite all that went on during the game, despite all the highs and lows and the changes in fortune…we won.
And won by scoring 6 tries to 4, taking the full five points. And with Rosslyn Park losing, not only have we increased the gap between ourselves in sixth place and Park in seventh, we’ve also made up a bit of ground on both Plymouth Albion and Moseley who both lost.
In many respects, oddly it was rather a good day at the office.
For the purists that clearly won’t be the case. There were spells when Coventry simply failed to get even the basics right…but actually, and forgive me here because this isn’t going to go down to well, in the context of the result it actually doesn’t matter.
Personally, though, I’d rather win as we did yesterday than lose as we did against Hartpury – a heroic effort in which we came second.
No doubt there will be a fait bit of criticism for the players and for the coaches on the messageboard this, but I can’t bring myself to be overly negative, not today. This wasn’t another Esher or Blackheath, not a bit of it, or even an Ampthill. This was no capitulation, no last 15 minutes in which the opposition ran us ragged.
The inquests can take place mid-week and doubtless I’ll be joining in at some stage (!) but I’m still on something of a high…
We won. And that win, the eighth of the season, felt as good as any before it. This wasn’t a game where we got ourselves into an early lead and then had to hang on for grim life, this was a game where the lead switched hands on several occasions, where the result could have gone either way and where it was decided on the very last kick of the match…
The quality of the rugby might not have been the greatest but in every other respect it was just fantastic to watch.
Was it a great advert for rugby?
But in terms of a sporting contest, it was enthralling. No one could have left that game yesterday and say they weren’t entertained.
And here’s the thing. I choose to watch live sport on a Saturday afternoon because I want to be entertained. I want to enjoy the whole experience of being at a rugby game, of which the rugby is the biggest part. So when I’ve watch a game in which 85 points have been scored, the result is decided in the very last second and, to cap it all, my team wins,then I reckon I’ve had a pretty good deal.
I did when I left the ground, I still do this morning.
We could easily have lost, but we didn’t and that’s why for me it is such an important win…on the back of another dire away performance last week, had Coventry not turned it round in the final minutes, well there would have been some very difficult questions asked of the team and of the coaches, especially given the way the game unfolded.
But this team is nothing if not resilient and actually yet again they answered some of the questions raised elsewhere during the game. Too often we made poor decisions – for instance, I counted four occasions when we’d broken through defences, had options to pass that would have probably have ended in tries, but instead we decided to go it alone resulting in the move breaking down and the opportunity to attack lost.
Yet, when push came to shove and we were down to the final few plays of the game, we did everything right.
From the restart following Ben Palmer’s final penalty to take OAs into a nine point lead we controlled play, working the ball up field and when the ball reached Matt Price, instead of doing what others had tried before him and go it alone, Matt took the right option and his pass safely found Tom Jubb who went over. We retained the ball well, showed patience and when the chance to attack the line came, we spread the ball wide…the decisions we made were the right ones, executed perfectly.
We were slightly more fortuitous in the final play. Having got the ball down into OAs 22, we lost possession and had OAs been able to do what we had just done moments before, then they could have killed the game. But they wasted the opportunity and from the scrum that ensued, well it was the stuff of dreams.
It was a massive moment, one on which the whole game up to that point hinged, to be superseded only by Will Maisey’s kick just seconds later.
With OAs having the feed, and the Coventry crowd hoping for the only possible outcome that could prevent the game from ending in an OA win, the Coventry scrum to a man drove forward, the OA front row were forced to stand up and the referee had no option but to award Cov the penalty. Again, the right decision, perfectly executed.
Lucky? Well it’s that old adage again…the more you train, the luckier you get.
And Coventry train hard.
And few players more so than Will Maisey.
On the Thursday sessions I’ve attended, or watched from the Platinum Suite (!), Will is one of the last to leave the training ground, always spending several minutes after training is officially over to practice his kicking (usually accompanied by Scott Tolmie and Rhodri Adamson). It is no surprise that, despite the intense pressure, he calmly slotted the ball over, even from what was a fairly difficult angle and from the wrong side for a left-footed kicker.
That kick was the result of hours and hours of practice…he deserves all the plaudits that come his way.
The OAs probably feel they merited more than just the two points from a game that they should have won, given the lead they had going into the final couple of minutes. Whether they deserved to win, well I’m not convinced on that one. As the away team they certainly took the game to us and played exactly the expansive, running style of rugby that we don’t seem to be able to repeat outside of the BPA.
But to some extent OAs fed off our errors and the try count of 6-4 in Cov’s favour is indicative of the way the game was played, with Coventry also wasting a number of other golden scoring opportunities. They will have been gutted to lose out, especially in the manner they did and can justifiably feel that the gods of rugby were against them yesterday afternoon. It was a tough day for them, especially with the injury to Chris May – like everyone in the ground, we can only wish him a full recovery from what looked to be an awful injury.
Once again, full marks to Hannah and her team who were there within seconds to stabilise the player and to Brendan Burke who stayed with him long after the teams had gone inside to keep warm whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Brendan didn’t appear after the restart and I did wonder whether the sight, and by all accounts, the sound of the injury had left him unwilling to carry on.
Whilst the OA players deserved better, I didn’t have quite the same sympathy for a small group of their supporters. To be fair, there was a decent number there yesterday many of whom were in great voice, especially as the game neared it’s conclusion. However, there were one or two at the back of the main stand who goaded Coventry fans around them, especially when they thought they had won the game with their final penalty…they hadn’t endeared themselves to the crowd before then, to be honest, but even I took exception to their final comments.
As Will’s kick sailed over many of the supporters around them turned to look at their response…
…they had already left their seats.
A perfect end to a (im)perfect afternoon.
It was just the most extraordinary game and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it, I do accept that this was in many respects rather a limited performance from a Coventry team that again flattered to deceive. However, it made for great afternoon’s entertainment and even amongst all the mistakes and errors, Coventry played some really good rugby at times and several tries were right out of the top drawer.
We were warned by Rowland Winter before the season began that there would be games like this, it would be edge of the seat stuff, and so it proved yesterday.
It was pure entertainment, a game that everything…including the odd tackle. The theatre of nightmares became the theatre of dreams in the space of a couple of minutes. And from farce, through to tragedy, fittingly given the time of year ,we ended up with a few minutes of pantomime…
Oh no he won’t…
Oh yes he Will!
If you haven’t yet voted on your ‘Man of the Match’ for the Old Albanian game please give it a go..results in tomorrow’s post tomorrow: